Ronald Koeman will take his first steps as Barcelona manager when the Blaugrana belatedly begin their 2020-21 La Liga campaign at home to Villarreal on Sunday.
Barca hasn’t played competitively since their 8-2 humiliation against Bayern Munich during the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals in August, the reason behind their delayed start. Villarreal have gone unbeaten in their first two league outings (one win, one draw) but face a difficult challenge maintaining that record in their first away clash of the new campaign.
What TV Channel is Barcelona-Villarreal on?
Barcelona’s campaign opener against Villarreal will be shown on beIN Sports at 3 p.m. ET. You can live stream La Liga matches on fuboTV.
A quarter of a century has passed since Koeman left Catalonia as a player, though he later returned as assistant to Louis van Gaal in 1998 and is now set to start a new era of his own in the manager’s seat.
The former Netherlands boss has joined during a turbulent time in Barcelona’s history, with Lionel Messi having gestured towards the exit this summer and grievances surrounding the board.
Change is apparent in all areas at the Camp Nou, not least of which is the squad. New signings Miralem Pjanic, Trincao and Pedri could make their competitive debuts against Villarreal, while the likes of Arthur (Juventus), Arturo Vidal (Inter Milan), Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla) and Nelson Semedo (Wolverhampton Wanderers) have each moved on.
Perhaps the most significant summer departure, however, was that of Luis Suarez to Atletico Madrid. Barcelona confirmed on Wednesday the Uruguay striker left the Camp Nou for free (plus $7 million in potential bonuses), leaving Messi to express his sadness with the board’s decision, via ESPN’s Sid Lowe:
How to Watch Barcelona vs. Villarreal
When: Sunday, September 27
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain
Time: 3 p.m. ET/8 p.m. BST
TV: beIN Sports
Live Stream: fuboTV (watch for free)
Villarreal have lost in their last 10 visits to Barcelona and last clinched a result at the Camp Nou in January 2010 (a 1-1 draw). The Yellow Submarine hasn’t defeated Barca on their own soil since March 2008 when Manuel Pellegrini was at the helm.
Unai Emery’s lineup has also undergone a summer shake-up, with Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin joining a midfield corps that’s just lost the services of string-puller Santi Cazorla, who joined Qatari club Al Sadd. Winger Takefusa Kubo has arrived on loan from Real Madrid, giving the Japan international all the more reason to impress on behalf of his parent club.
Villarreal will fancy their chances if Barcelona display any fatigue after beginning the season in Week 3, with forward Gerard Moreno hoping to extend his streak of two goals in as many games.
Blaugrana goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen will be absent due to injury, meaning Neto should deputize, while central defender Samuel Umtiti and striker Martin Braithwaite will also be sidelined for the hosts.
Real Madrid won La Liga last season following Barcelona’s late collapse under Quique Setien, but Koeman hopes to put any poor form behind the club with a successful start to his reign.